More DVRs Coming

Study: DVR adoption on the rise

The rising adoption of DVRs–which use a hard drive to record television shows–has much to do with the competition between cable and satellite television providers. Initially, satellite providers promoted DVR-equipped set-top boxes to match cable companies’ investment in video-on-demand, and now, the cable industry is being forced to respond, IDC said.

[…] While the DVR market in Western Europe resembles that of the United States, Japanese consumers are starting to look to combination DVR/DVD-recording devices. Those hybrids will see shipments of 11.8 million in 2008, adding up to nearly 40 percent of the worldwide market, with the vast majority of the shipments occurring beyond the U.S. market, IDC said.

Wonder how the broadcast flag will influence the sales of those devices in the US?

Another New Tool

Will it get the same degree of scrutiny about legal and illegal uses that other technical innovations have? Oracle joins race to bring RFID to retailers and Oracle unveils next round of RFID solutions. For example, there’s this application: Passport Safety, Privacy Face Off, raising the interesting question of the extent to which "information will set you free"

An international aviation group is completing new passport standards this week, setting the groundwork for all passports issued worldwide to include digitized photographs that a computer can read remotely and compare to the face of the traveler or to a database of mug shots.

Supporters hope the system will banish fake passports and help fight terrorism. But critics say the standards will enable a global infrastructure for surveillance and lead to a host of national biometric databases, including ones run by countries with troubling human rights records.

[…] The ICAO has already settled on facial recognition as the standard biometric identifier, though countries may add fingerprints or iris scans if they wish. The standards body will vote on Friday whether to adopt radio-frequency ID chips, such as those used in Fast Pass toll systems, as the standard method of storing and transmitting the digitized information.

A Part of the Emerging VoIP Battle

Raising the question: is embracing a strategy to get around CALEA by exploiting the “information services” exemption a winning strategy, or just one that gives the DoJ incentive to fight even harder to eliminate the exemption?: VoIP provider to block eavesdroppers

VoicePulse said the new feature will prevent electronic or traditional eavesdropping on customers’ phone calls. It encrypts the part of the call that travels alongside other data on the public Internet, the first time this approach has been taken by a commercial voice over Internet Protocol service provider (VoIP), according to VoicePulse.

VoicePulse President Ravi Sakaria said he believes the company’s competitors, which now include AT&T, will also make it standard to protect the data in calls from being captured by outsiders. He said it will ease privacy concerns, satisfying current subscribers and making voice calling over the Internet more palatable to potential business customers.

“Encryption will not cost extra, and we do intend to encrypt every call on all plans,” Sakaria said. “As a service provider, we feel that providing encryption is a requirement, not an option.”

NYTimes on the IFPI Suits

The article, Fight Against Illegal File Sharing Is Moving Overseas, implicitly raises the question of how those countries that have not yet complied with the EU Copyright Directive might respond in the face of this initiative, particularly combined with the absence of “legal” alternatives in many European jurisdictions. The Mark Mulligan hyperlink takes you to his weblog entry on this subject.

The nature of the industry’s campaign – it announced no lawsuits in Britain or France, nor any in Asia – attests to the patchwork of copyright laws outside the United States. While the European Union has passed a uniform copyright protection law similar to that in the United States, it has yet to be ratified by all of the union’s current 15 member states.

The existing cases are being prosecuted under national laws, Mr. Berman said. He predicted that lawsuits would be filed in other countries, but said the timing is dependent on stricter enforcement of copyright protection.

[…] Critics of the lawsuits said the piecemeal approach would bewilder consumers, particularly in Europe.

“People won’t understand the message,” said Mark Mulligan, an analyst at Jupiter Research in London. “If you’re file sharing in Germany, you’re in trouble. If you’re file sharing in Spain, you’re fine.”

“Bray”ing from the Boston Globe

Although he seems to be trying to be even handed, it’s clear where Hiawatha Bray stands on technological alienation and the DMCA (for those who were there, recall the discussion of transparency at Alan’s talk yesterday): Software pirates chip away at gaming industry revenue [pdf]

Like other DVD players, the game consoles contain chips that restrict their functions. American PlayStations and Xboxes won’t show foreign-made DVD movie discs or play overseas-produced games. Want to play a cool game you saw in Tokyo? You must buy a Japanese version of the console to play it. And another thing — if you use a DVD burner to make a copy of a game, the copy won’t work.

[…] A mod chip is a piece of silicon that seizes control from a similar chip built into the game consoles. The standard chip contains software that sets all those annoying limits on the machine’s performance. But solder in a mod chip and install some software available for free on the Internet, and those restrictions disappear. Suddenly your PlayStation or Xbox can play any game produced anywhere in the world. You can use Internet file-swapping software to download dozens of games without paying a penny, or you can rent games at the local Blockbuster, make copies, and add them to your permanent collection.

“The modding of the XBox itself should certainly be legal; why shouldn’t I have permission to modify a piece of hardware I’ve paid for?” said Mark, a 33-year-old researcher in Iowa City who spoke on the condition that his last name not be printed.

Strictly speaking, he’s right. Modding a game console voids the warranty, but it’s no more a crime than flinging it against a wall. It’s your machine; do what you please.

Even game companies admit this. A Microsoft spokesman said that the company tracks the vendors of mod chips and takes legal action against them on a case-by-case basis. For instance, a company that simply sells blank chips that can be used to modify a console is doing nothing illegal. But if they sell the software that circumvents the game machine’s limitations, that’s a violation of a 1998 federal copyright law. Just ask David Rocci, a Virginia man who was sentenced to five months in prison last year for selling Xbox mod chips with illegal software included.